With the first week of Amber Guyger’s murder trial in the books, a lot of new information has come to light that was previously not known about before, during and after she killed Botham Jean. What seems like it should be a slam dunk case for the prosecution has been anything but, depending on who you ask.
The prosecution has been able to establish a number of damning facts about Guyger, the former Dallas police officer who killed an innocent, unarmed Black man in his home last year. But Guyger’s defense attorneys have also been able to counter with their own case that has presented their client as the victim of unfortunate circumstances that left her no choice but to defend herself by shooting to kill.
As the prosecution continues to seek justice for an innocent man who was executed through absolutely no fault of his own, here’s everything we’ve learned from watching Amber Guyger’s murder trial so far.
Why Botham Jean smoked marijuana
When the police announced early on in the investigation that they found [a small amount of] marijuana in Botham Jean’s apartment, some people accused police of following a centuries-old American tradition of trying to lynch a Black man, even in death. It was likely for that reason that prosecutors tried to establish early on in the case why Jean was in possession of weed. Jean’s sister, Alissa Findley, took the stand as the prosecution’s witness to testify about the modest amount of marijuana that was found in her brother’s apartment after Guyger killed him.
Officials tried to criminalize Jean in death when they announced that irrelevant discovery back in the infancy of the investigation a year ago. But Findley explained that her brother used marijuana to treat his ADHD, for which she said his prescribed Adderall had an adverse reaction.
Amber Guyger is no angel
The disgraced former cop had just ended a sexting marathon with fellow officer Martin Rivera, who was married when the two of them had a sexual relationship. And even though Guyger testified that she ended the relationship because she said it violated her personal code of ethics and morals, she later admitted under cross-examination that she kept sending Rivera nude photos of herself and sexting about when to have their next tryst. While both said they hadn’t had sex with each other more than a year before Guyger killed Jean, it was not clear if that was actually true based on one of the sexting sessions they had just before the shooting.
“When can I come over?” Rivera asked Guyger in one message.
“You can come over after this,” Guyger responded in an apparent allusion to her finishing up at work.
She then texted to Rivera: “Super horny today too,” to which Rivera responded, “me too.”
That prompted Guyger to ask him in her next text: “Do you wanna touch?”
NO, the Dallas DA did NOT violate the trial’s gag order
On Day 1, the defense requested a mistrial citing what it said was a new interview that Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot gave to a local TV news station. It aired the night before the trial began last Monday. But a closer look revealed Guyger’s lawyers may have been trying to pull a fast one on the court and Kemp, who quickly denied the request because the interview was actually recorded back in November after Creuzot won his election (and, more importantly, before Kemp issued the gag order).
Guyger’s toxicology report came back clean
While no drugs or alcohol was found in Guyger’s system after her blood was drawn following the shooting, it seems like her being intoxicated might at least provide a more solid reason for her missing all the clues she was at the wrong apartment that the prosecution told her she ignored before killing Jean within seconds of entering his home.
Guyger did not try to save Jean
Prosecutors established on Day 2 of the trial that first responding officers were the ones who started performing CPR on Jean. That was an important distinction to make because Guyger testified later in the week that she performed one-handed “compressions” on Jean because she said she had never given CPR before. But the prosecution got her to admit on the stand that not only had she been trained and certified in CPR but she also had medical supplies she could have administered to stop, or at least help contain Jean’s bleeding.
Instead, a parade of witnesses who lived near Jean’s apartment testified they saw Guyger pacing in the hallway and talking on her phone, which indicates she never really tried to save Jean even though during her 911 call she apologizes and says she shot him by mistake. The prosecution established that at least five minutes elapsed between Guyger calling 911 and when first responders started performing CPR. That didn’t account for how much time had elapsed between her firing the first shot and when she placed the 911 call. Another damning indication that Guyger left Jean to die: her uniform and shoes were absent of even the faintest trace of Jean’s blood while first responders had it splattered on their clothes and footwear.
Guyger said she thought Jean was going to kill her
She testified that she identified Jean as a “threat” in “my apartment” and shot to kill him because she said he was charging at her. However, the prosecution took issue with that account noting that the trajectory of the bullets were fired from above Jean and entered his chest before exiting his lower back. The prosecution argued that the trajectory meant that Jean was much lower than Guyger, who only stands 5’3. That would lend credence, the prosecution argued, to the theory that Jean was simply eating ice cream and watching TV on his couch when he was startled by Guyger entering his apartment, and not, as she testified, rushing at her, which would have presumably been done while Jean, who was 6’1, was standing.
Guyger’s lawyers tried to argue that the positioning of Jean’s flip flops on the floor indicated he was closer to the front door when he was shot than prosecutors claimed. But bodycam footage showed first responders moving the flip flops as well as furniture to better position Jean’s body for the medical attention they were rendering.
Guyger got preferential treatment after the shooting
While there was a suspicion that the Dallas Police Department and officer’s union tried to coverup parts of the shooting to protect Guyger, the prosecution played surveillance footage from outside of the South Side Flats confirming that to be true. Video showed an emotionless Guyger being left alone in a police car to text — and delete text messages — as well as receive coaching from fellow officers and law enforcement officials. That included having in-car video stop recording.
The prosecution did not call the witness who recorded video of Guyger after the shooting: What happened to the woman whose video of Guyger pacing while talking on the phone after the shooting? Back in December, she claimed her life was being ruined for coming forward with the footage. The unidentified woman claimed she was being harassed and even lost her job because of the threat she said she posed to Guyger. It was unclear why she was not called to testify while other neighbors were.
Did Guyger issue any verbal commands to Jean before she shot?
A parade of Jean’s neighbors took the stand to testify they never heard any loud yelling before they heard the two gunshots fired in rapid succession. One neighbor, Joshua Brown, who said he lived directly across the hall from Jean, testified that the two never formally met but he could always hear Jean singing. That seemed to be an indication of the acoustics in the apartment building. Brown, like the other neighbors who testified, claimed he never heard any verbal commands being given before he heard the shots fired. Guyger, on the other hand, insists she yelled, “Let me see your hands!”
Other building residents have gone to wrong apartments before
The defense called other people who lived in the complex to testify about their experiences getting lost in the sprawling property. One man said he was even able to walk into a woman’s apartment before realizing he was in the wrong place. But while the defense was able to establish that it may be more common than expected for residents to attempt to unwittingly enter other people’s apartments, the prosecution countered by establishing that none of those instances ever resulted in anyone being shot, let alone killed.
A juror had a “relationship” with a witness
On Day 2, Kemp opened the trial by announcing that a juror told the bailiff that she had a “relationship” with a witness for both the prosecution and the defense. After a brief break, Kemp ruled that the juror could remain serving. And while the nature of the “relationship” was not clear, the decision to keep that juror serving could be important since the witness in question is Texas Rangers officer David Armstrong, who said to the court (while the jury was not present) that he believed that a crime had not been committed in the shooting.
It’s not an open and shut case
If there’s one thing that’s become increasingly apparent as the trial moves forward, it’s that the prosecution’s burden to prove Amber Guyger is guilty of murder has become heavier and heavier. On the surface and to the casual eye, Amber Guyger illegally entered an innocent civilian’s home and shot him on sight. To those watching the trial closely, the prosecution even got her to admit she intended to kill Jean — under, of course, the purported pretenses that she mistook his apartment for her own (in spite of all of the obvious indicators that should have given a trained police officer awarded for her awareness at least a hint that she was in the wrong place). By Texas law, a murder happens if someone “intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual.”
But in the defense has presented credible witnesses, including a renowned use of force expert, who have said they didn’t think Guyger committed murder.
The trial is moving faster than anticipated
The prosecution rested its case on Thursday in a trial that was expected to take up to two weeks. The trial would have advanced even quicker had Kemp allowed the defense to begin presenting its case that same day. However, Guyger took the stand on Friday instead. The case resumed Saturday and at this rate the defense will rest its case by midweek, at the latest, leaving the jury to deliberate Amber Guyger’s fate.
The trial resumes Monday morning. You can watch a live stream of the case by clicking here.